China has been on the hot spot in recent years for its systematic oppression of Muslims in some parts of China. While Governments in Muslim countries are silent about the serious allegations of ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide, some western Governments and Rights Organisations are continuously accusing China of its undeterred oppressive acts.

In a recent landmark report prepared by more than 50 international experts, and released by the Washington-based Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, claims that the Chinese Government has violated all five acts that constitute genocide:

  • killing members of a group;
  • inflicting serious bodily and mental harm;
  • trying to prevent births; transferring children to another group;
  • creating living conditions designed to bring about the group’s destruction.

In 2018, UN human rights committee had credible reports that the Chinese were holding up to a million people in “counter-extremism centres” in Xinjiang.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found evidence in 2020 of more than 380 of these “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, an increase of 40% on previous estimates.

Former US Secretary of States, Mike Pompeo said: “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”

Chinese Government is not denying the concentration camps, rather claiming them to be ‘re-education’ centres to prevent terrorism and separatist ideas.

In 2017, President Xi Jinping issued an order that all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation.

However, people who escaped the so called re-education camps have reported physical, mental and sexual torture – women have spoken of mass rape and sexual abuse.

At least 1 million Muslim minority Uyghurs are held in Chinese government-run detention centres. There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Latest media reports show that the Chinese authorities are selling organs of Uyghur Muslims, and separating the children from their parents.

Often when the man of a house is taken to custody by the security forces they deploy a security guard in the house to monitor what happens inside the home. In many cases these guards rape the women of the house in the absence of men.

Historical background
In the early 20th Century, the Uyghurs briefly declared independence, but the region was brought under the complete control of mainland China’s new Communist government in 1949.

In recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uyghurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

As a result anti-Han and separatist sentiment rose in Xinjiang from the 1990s. It was reported that in 2009 over 200 people died in clashes in Xinjiang, which the Chinese blamed on Uyghurs who want their own state. But in recent years a massive security crackdown has crushed dissent.

Xinjiang is situated in the north-west of China and is the country’s biggest region. The region is rich in oil and natural gas and producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton. It is close to Central Asia and Europe and an important trade link for China.

Islam reached China nearly 1,400 years ago. Majority of Muslims in China are Hui Muslims. However, the greatest concentration of Muslims is in Xinjiang, with a significant Uyghur population.

Muslims also live in the regions of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai of China. It is estimated that between 60–80 million Muslims in China. Of China’s 55 officially recognised minority peoples, ten groups are predominantly Muslims.

Islam first came to China in 616–18 AD when Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, Wahab ibn Abu Kabcha and other companions of Prophet Muhammad (s), arrived as   traders.

The first major Muslim settlements in China consisted of Arab and Persian merchants, especially in the port cities of Guangzhou, Quanzhou and Hangzhou on China’s southeastern seaboard.

In the year 760 in Yangzhou, troops killed Arab and Persian merchants targeted for their wealth in the Yangzhou massacre. Around 879, rebels killed about 120,000–200,000 mostly Arab and Persian Muslims during the Guangzhou massacre.

Current situation
According to media reports, Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces.

According to Human Rights Watch, police are also using a mobile app to monitor peoples’ behaviour, such as how much electricity they are using and how often they use their front door.

The US has accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghurs. According to international convention, genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

China has said that the reports on detention of Uyghurs are completely untrue. It says the crackdown is necessary to prevent terrorism and root out Islamist extremism and the camps are an effective tool for re-educating inmates in its fight against terrorism.

China has dismissed claims it is trying to reduce the Uyghur population through mass sterilisations as “baseless”, and says allegations of forced labour are “completely fabricated”.

There are half a million children in the detention camps. These boarding schools are to create a new generation of Uyghurs who will be more loyal to their party and nation. In fact, they will be totally deprived of their Islamic and Uyghur heritage.

Western role
The situation of Uyghur Muslims in China is seriously worrying. The Western voices in support of them is welcome. But the question remains, is the verbal support of the west to seriously engage with Chinese Government to protect the heritage and human and religious rights of Uyghurs or to embarrass China for political reasons?

Given continuing inaction of the Western powers to stop the illegal occupation of Palestine for generations, continuous aggressive land grabbing by Zionist Israel and continuing apartheid regime to exterminate the Arab population in their own homeland exposes their lack of serious engagement and willingness.

This, and support/allowing for many other anti-Muslim acts including Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, non-existed Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, and brutal occupation of Kashmir by India have raised legitimate questions of their sincerity.